An estimated 75% of women will experience at least one vaginal yeast infection during their lifetimes. Some women experience yeast infections more frequently during and after menopause, often due to hormone changes. In some cases, other conditions you might experience during menopause can also increase the risk for vaginal infections like yeast infections. If you’re experiencing yeast infection symptoms, schedule a gynecological services appointment with our team to discuss diagnosis and treatment. Let’s go over some information you should know about yeast infections to help protect your health.
First and foremost, you might be wondering what a vaginal yeast infection is. Many of us have heard of them or even experienced them without really knowing what they are. To understand what a yeast infection is, it’s important to understand that the vagina is like its own ecosystem. A healthy vagina typically has an acidic pH with a balance of bacteria and yeast. Those bacteria and yeast actually help keep your vagina healthy! However, if the balance between them gets thrown off for one reason or another, then the yeast cells can start to multiply and take over. When this happens, you experience a yeast infection. If you think you have a yeast infection, gynecological services can help diagnose the problem and one of our providers can prescribe treatment for the yeast infection.
There are many signs that can point to a yeast infection. Some common symptoms include:
However, it’s also important to keep in mind that other conditions can cause similar symptoms. This can make self-diagnosis tricky, which is why we recommend visiting one of our gynecological service providers if you’re experiencing yeast infection symptoms.
There are many potential causes of yeast infections. For instance, taking certain antibiotics can raise your risk for yeast infections because they can reduce the number of healthy bacteria in your vagina responsible for keeping yeast cells in check. Other common causes include stress, lack of sleep, and uncontrolled blood sugar if you have diabetes.
Hormone imbalances may also be a risk factor for yeast infections. Hormones can have a pretty big impact on your vagina’s delicate microbiome. Fluctuations in estrogen can lead to an overgrowth of yeast and eventually a yeast infection. Therefore, some women notice that they get yeast infections more often during perimenopause when hormone levels start to change. During this time period, vaginal atrophy is also pretty common, which can also increase your risk for vaginal infections. We’ll discuss these common menopause-related causes in more depth a little later.
In many cases it can be difficult to determine the exact cause of your yeast infection. Also, in some cases they may not be preventable. It’s important to talk to one of our gynecological treatment providers about your symptoms and what you can do to help avoid yeast infections. Some general tips involve following good hygiene practices, keeping your vulva clean and dry, and avoiding potentially irritating things like scented bath products. Our treatment providers can help determine other changes that may help your specific situation.
Some women choose to self-diagnose and self-treat yeast infections with over the counter medications. However, our team generally recommends scheduling an appointment with a gynecological services provider if you think you have a yeast infection.
There are several reasons to visit one of our treatment providers for a yeast infection. Self-diagnosing a yeast infection can be quite difficult. Several studies have found that women frequently misdiagnose themselves with yeast infections. One study showed evidence that only 34% of the study participants who purchased over-the-counter yeast infection treatments had accurately diagnosed themselves with a yeast infection.
Many other conditions can have similar symptoms to yeast infections. For instance, bacterial vaginosis, urinary tract infections, or even allergies from soaps or skincare products. Seeing a doctor can help rule out other causes of your symptoms and help verify that you have a yeast infection. One way to diagnose a yeast infection is to perform a lab test of your discharge to look for an overgrowth of yeast cells.
In addition, most over-the-counter yeast infection treatments are geared toward the most common type of yeast that causes yeast infections. However, some women may have a yeast infection from another type of yeast. Therefore, OTC treatments may not work for you if your yeast infection is due to another strain of yeast. In these cases, one of our providers can help identify the specific type of yeast and prescribe treatments specifically for that type of yeast infection. This can help you get the right type of treatment rather than deal with ongoing symptoms from using the incorrect anti-fungal treatments.
Vaginal yeast infections can occur at any age. However, some women notice they get more yeast infections during and after menopause. Some common conditions you may experience during menopause can increase your risk for yeast infections. In addition, some of the symptoms of menopause can make you more vulnerable to yeast infections.
We mentioned vaginal atrophy earlier as a potential risk factor for vaginal infections. Vaginal atrophy occurs when the tissues of your vagina become thin and dry. It’s pretty common with low estrogen levels during and after menopause. Vaginal atrophy may increase the risk for yeast infections, as it can change your vagina’s pH, bacterial levels, and yeast levels. These changes from vaginal atrophy can make your vagina more vulnerable to yeast overgrowth and yeast infections.
Also, some women even mistake vaginal atrophy symptoms for yeast infections. Vaginal atrophy can cause itching, irritation, pain during sex, and several other similar symptoms to yeast infections. This can lead some women to believe they have a yeast infection when they don’t. Gynecological services such as a pelvic exam and lab testing of vaginal discharge can help determine if you have a yeast infection or if there may be other causes of your symptoms.
Also, there are other conditions you might experience during menopause that can increase your risk for yeast infections. For instance, many women experience frequent urinary tract infections during menopause due to low estrogen levels and vaginal atrophy. The most common treatment for UTIs involves taking antibiotics, which, as we mentioned earlier, can increase the risk for yeast infections. If you’re struggling with frequent UTIs after menopause, you may also experience more frequent yeast infections due to the antibiotics.
In addition, poor sleep can lower your immune system and increase your risk for yeast infections. Many women experience poor sleep during menopause due to hot flashes and night sweats. Frequent sleep issues during menopause may lead to vaginal yeast infections as well. Therefore, there may be many factors at play if you’re experiencing yeast infections during menopause, such as menopause symptoms that can affect your health.
Sometimes yeast infections just happen, but symptoms should go away with treatment. However, if you have four or more yeast infections per year, you might have chronic yeast infections. This is important to discuss with one of our women’s health care providers, as there may be underlying causes to chronic yeast infections.
Treating underlying conditions may help reduce the number of yeast infections you get. For instance, if you’re struggling with vaginal atrophy after menopause, we may recommend estrogen or vaginal creams to help moisturize and thicken vaginal tissues, which may help reduce the number of yeast infections you experience. In other cases, our providers may recommend taking yeast infection medications for a longer period of time to help with chronic yeast infections.
One of the first steps toward getting help for frequent yeast infections is scheduling an appointment for gynecological services from our team. Our providers can go over your medical history, symptoms, and perform examinations and tests to determine if there may be underlying causes to your yeast infections.
Our professionals at HerKare are here to help you feel your best, whether you have chronic yeast infections or need preventative well woman care. We are a women’s health clinic owned and managed by women. We take time to listen and understand what you’re feeling to help provide quality care for a wide range of conditions, from gynecological concerns to menopause symptoms. Make an appointment today to discuss how we can help you address your health.